|Like this post wasn't mawkish enough already...|
It's getting cold. Everyone's grumpy. We all need cheering up. Apparently, Christmas isn't enough to cheer some people up. I've even heard that Christmas makes some people even more grumpy. What a load of shit. I'm personally a big fan of Christmas, and see it as an excuse to abandon my natural cynicism rather than amplify it. We all know Christmas is commercial. So is every other day, but no-one seems to care about this. Well, if you're sick of contributing to the Christmas gift industry, why not make your own Christmas presents? It's cheaper and more heartfelt. Plus, it's a lot easier than people think. These are two Christmassy recipes that, due to their long shelf life, make excellent presents.
The first one is Christmas Chutney. This will keep until March at the earliest if you make it right, and goes well with cold meats, cheese, and poppadoms. It's very rich and looks like something a medieval king would have at Christmas. It's a nice present to give, and people will be grateful for it when every meal includes cold, dry turkey.
500g mixture of dried fruits (e.g. any number of dried apples, pears, apricots, dates, raisins, prunes, figs, cranberries, sultanas, etc.)
500ml boiling water
250ml red wine vinegar
220g brown sugar
Half a teaspoon of turmeric, chilli powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger (all ground)
Half a clove crushed garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
Chop the fruit up into little bits
Boil the dried fruit in the water until it's soft (timing will vary between completely dried and 'ready to eat' dried fruit, but this doesn't matter too much).
Add in all the other ingredients and simmer for about an hour until it's reduced to about the right consistency.
At this point you can leave it as it is, or go in with a potato masher if you want a jammier texture.
Transfer into 2 sterilised jam jars*
They will keep for ages unopened, but it's best to leave it a week or so before consuming to let the flavours infuse more.
*To sterilise a jar, either use a diswasher, or if you don't have one, wash them out with hot water and antibacterial washing up liquid, rinse, and dry in an oven at gas mark 1.
See? That wasn't too hard, was it? This next one's even easier. It's a syrup to put in coffee, like the ones in coffee shops, but Christmas flavour. By which I mean if you put a dash of it in a cup of coffee, that coffee will taste AMAZING AND JUST LIKE CHRISTMAS. Just try it, you'll see what I mean. This is not my recipe, it's from here, but I thought I'd include it because it's brilliant. Not only does it make coffee AMAZING, but you can also use it to make individual glasses of mulled wine. Just pop a dash of it into a glass of wine and heat it on the stove until it's warm. I tried adding this to tea, but the result wasn't as good, to be honest.
2 cinnamon sticks
thumb-sized piece of root ginger, peeled and sliced
10 allspice berries
Slowly heat the sugar and water together until all the sugar has dissolved.
Add your spices and simmer SLOWLY for half an hour until the mixture has thickened and taken on a red-brown colour.
When you're happy with it, put it in a sterilised bottle, spices and all and leave for 3-5 days (the original recipe said up to 2 weeks, but the ginger will start to get a bit gross).
Strain the ingredients and re-bottle the syrup. As you can see in the picture, I left a cinnamon stick in for aesthetic purposes.